The Canucks and Sochi: Locks, Snubs and Long Shots

Thomas Drance
July 23 2013 11:40AM


Image uncredited via HFboards.

On Friday an agreement between the IOC and the NHL was reached, which will allow professional men's hockey players to compete in the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi. Shortly thereafter the Olympic schedule was released, followed promptly by the Canadian and American orientation camp rosters. On Tuesday the Swedes and Finns followed suit, and the North American nations named their respective coaching staffs. 

So by this point we have a good feel for which Canucks players and coaches will be involved (or not) in the 2014 Olympic games. Beyond that there are a variety of players who may yet force their way onto their respective national team's rosters and, of course, there are a couple of players (and coaches) whom we might describe as having been snubbed. 

Let's get into it further after the jump.

Locks

Daniel and Henrik Sedin

Vancouver's cherished Swedish twins are absolute locks to suit up for the Tre Kronor in 2014. It was just a few months ago, after all, that the twins starred for the Swedish national team as they emerged victorious from the 2013 World Championship tournament - a tournament which the Swedes hosted. They also talked a fair bit of trash in that tournament.

Generally speaking the twins have never been as celebrated in Sweden as some of their countrymen (primarily Peter Forsberg and Henrik Zetterberg). I remember in 2010, for example, the twins were on the bench in favour of Zetterberg, Alfredsson, Forsberg and Backstrom as team Sweden pulled Henrik Lundqvist for an extra attacker, and unsuccessfully attempted to tie up their quarterfinal game against Slovakia.

The twins of course went onto win consecutive Art Ross trophies in 2010 and 11, so I'm just saying Sweden that maybe the Sedins should've been on the ice in that situation The Sedins were also rather preposterously matched up on a line with Matthias Weinhandl, which y'know, is inexcusably silly.

It's safe to say that the former Art Ross winners will play a bigger role for the Tre Kronor in Sochi than they did in Vancouver, and will presumably combine with World Championship line-mate Loui Eriksson on Sweden's top-line and first power-play unit. The twins won Olympic Gold in 2006 playing third-line minutes for the Tre Kronor, but I'd imagine this Swedish Olympic club will be "their's" for the first time in their respective and illustrious careers.

The Swedes will be stacked in this tournament. They boast the best goaltender in the world in Henrik Lundqvist, arguably the best (or second best at worst) blue-line, and a bevy of talented forwards. From the twins and Eriksson, to a possible checking line featuring Zetterberg and Gabriel Landeskog, to a first unit power-play that might feature Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Erik Karlsson, a couple of Sedins, and Loui Eriksson: the Tre Kronor will be a prohibitive favorite in 2014.

A second Olympic gold medal would further cement the twins as two of the most talented, accomplished and unique Swedish forwards of all-time.

Roberto Luongo

Roberto Luongo, a hockey player who may as well personify the divide between perception and reality, is very probably a soft lock to make the 2014 Canadian Olympic team. I'm describing Luongo as a soft lock for now because it's still possible that Luongo holds out (or something), or combusts in the first half of the season. For what it's worth, I don't think either scenario is particularly likely.

Any way you might reasonably cut it, Roberto Luongo is the best Canadian born starting goaltender in the National Hockey League. Luongo leads all Canadian goaltenders in even-strength save percentage over a large sample, or a small one (last three years, say). He's also second to Braden Holtby among Canadian born goaltenders in total save percentage over the last three seasons, and his sample is more than twice as large. 

But of course, Roberto Luongo is a controversial pick because hockey fans and media prefer to ignore Luongo's body of work in favour of a cherry picking a handful of moments in which Luongo has suffered through a bout of the yips. Luckily for Roberto Luongo and Canadian hockey fans, Steve Yzerman is smarter than that.

There's one other factor working in Roberto Luongo's favour here, and that's experience. It's odd to describe Roberto Luongo this way, but his inclusion on this roster would make him something of an elder statesman on the 2014 Canadian Olympic entry. After all, no other Canadian goalie invited to camp has so much as a sniff of Olympic experience. 

For Roberto Luongo meanwhile, the Sochi games would represent his third Olympic tournament. Luongo has played seven games at the Olympics in the past, racking up a 6-1-0 record (which is meaningless) and a .927 save percentage. Putting up an elite save percentage and getting no credit for it? Sounds like vintage Roberto Luongo!

For what it's worth Steve Yzerman sounds like a man who values veteran leadership, as he told Chris Johnston:

“You can debate whether you want the young legs or you want the veteran experience,” Yzerman said. “Generally I’ve found over the course of my time — whether it’s Stanley Cup playoffs or international events — in these big games a lot of those veteran guys are the guys you rely on.

“When you look back to Vancouver, when it came time for the guys to step up, those (Chris) Prongers and Niedermayers really were important.”

With Niedermayer retired, Pronger functionally retired, and Iginla and Morrow left off of the orientation camp roster, the 2014 Canadian Olympic Men's Hockey Team is likely to be relatively young. They won't be an inexperienced group of course - only an idiot would describe Bergeron, Crosby and Toews that way despite their relative youth - but outside of Martin St. Louis and possibly Dan Boyle (who I'd think is a long shot to make the team), there isn't much in the way of "elder statesman candidates." 

This is partly why I think of Roberto Luongo as something of a shoe-in for the Canadian National Team. Beyond his consistent, stellar performance on the ice, Luongo brings a wealth of experience to the table. Luongo's also got a sterling reputation for getting along with his backups, putting ego aside, and helping out his young understudies.

I tend to think that a guy like Price, Smith or Holtby could conceivably challenge Roberto Luongo for the starters mantle if they have an unbelievable start to the season. But I'd imagine that Roberto Luongo is the frontrunner for the starting position at this point, and thanks to his experience and track record, will at least be on the bench as the number two for team Canada.

In the Mix

Ryan Kesler

For a variety of reasons, most of them related to embellishment and durability issues, Ryan Kesler's stock has tumbled over the past couple of years.

It's almost been enough to make us forget that Ryan Kesler was maybe one of the best players in the entire tournament during the 2010 games in Vancouver. He was so good, and so annoying, that an embarrassing number of Vancouver hockey fans wanted him traded before the end of the Olympic break...

Past accomplishments aside, Kesler may be in tough to make Team USA. The Americans don't have the most centre depth in the world, but Kesler will still need to beat out one of Derek Stepan, David Backes, Paul Statsny or Joe Pavelski if he wants to be relied on heavily by the Americans in Sochi. That's no small task, I might mention.

For Kesler, the key here will be his health. I don't need to summarize the injuries he's battled over the past two seasons here, but I might say that the hockey world hasn't seen full speed Kesler since January of 2012. With an entire summer to work out and rest up, Ryan Kesler could be fit and ready to go in October for the first time in years. If he re-finds anything resembling his old form, he's a lock to play top-six minutes for the Americans.

If, however, Ryan Kesler's uninhibited physical style has taken a more serious toll on his abilities than we might be comfortable admitting, I could see him missing the team entirely. 

Alex Edler

Alex Edler's omission from the 2010 Swedish Olympic team was a hilarious player selection gaffe, especially considering that Doug Murray was on that team. But if the Swedes left the talented but inconsistent Canucks defenceman at home this time around, I wouldn't be shocked or appalled. 

The Swedes are loaded along the blue-line, particularly with defenceman who shoot left. Edler has spent some time on the right-side in the past, but NHL forwards frequently walk him like he's an adorable puppy when he plays on his off side.

So Edler's primary competition if he hopes to suit up for the Tre Kronor in 2014 will include guys like Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Niklas Kronwall, Victor Hedman, Nick Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya and Jonathan Ericsson. Luckily for Edler, Hedman and Kronwall both spend a lot of time playing as RD.

If I had to bet on it, I'd imagine that Edler will sneak into Sweden's top-six (along with Ekman-Larsson, Hedman, Kronwall, Karlsson, Hjalmarsson). But he'll likely be pushed by the likes of Oduya, Jonas Brodin and Ericsson, especially if he doesn't have a strong start to the 2013-14 NHL campaign.

Long Shots

Dan Hamhuis

If you're Dan Hamhuis, here's the quote from Steve Yzerman (as per Chris Johnston) that has to make your ears perk up:

Yzerman did speak of targeting players to fill specific roles, which creates the distinct possibility that there could be a few surprise selections. The team won’t simply mirror a list of the NHL’s top Canadian-born scorers come December.

“We’re not putting together a team for a NHL all-star game,” Yzerman said. “We’re putting together the best possible team we can to compete against the best players in the world and try and win a gold medal.”

Put simply: Dan Hamhuis is not one of the top-eight Canadian born defenceman playing professional hockey, but he might make a good deal of sense for the 2014 Canadian Olympic team. Probably not though.

Despite long odds, there are a couple of things working in Dan Hamhuis' favour as I see it. Firstly, Hamhuis is a left-handed shot and outside of Duncan Keith, Canada doesn't seem to possess too many elite defenceman with that attribute. Secondly Dan Hamhuis is both a very good skater and a defence first blue-liner, a somewhat rarer combination than you might imagine.

Yzerman has suggested that he'll bring eight defenceman to Sochi, and we'd have to think that Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Shea Weber, Alex Pietrangelo and PK Subban are essentially locks. So that leaves three open spots on Team Canada's roster, and twelve other defenceman competing for them. 

Hamhuis' stiffest competition will surely come from the other two-way lefty's (Hamhuis is not exactly a comparable piece to a Kris Letang, or a Mike Green). That's group which includes Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Dion Phaneuf, Jay Bouwmeester, Karl Alzner, and Marc's Staal and Methot. Of those names and based on the underlying data, I think I'd take Hamhuis ahead of all of them though I'm willing to hear arguments in favour of Vlasic or Phaneuf.

Ultimately it would be a pretty significant surprise if Dan Hamhuis was named to the 2014 Olympic roster. But maybe it shouldn't be. While Hamhuis' quiet defensive efficiency goes largely unnoticed by the hockey world at large, he's secretly a legitimate 1A defenceman and a worthy candidate for the Canadian Olympic team in my view.

Snubs

Alex Burrows

I've long thought that Alex Burrows had a good shot at making the 2014 Olympic Team, but he wasn't invited to orientation camp so I guess I was wrong. I just figured that he might be a contender for the Rob Zamneur memorial roster spot, but it turns out that Brad Marchand has that fourth line slot on lock!

Burrows' shot at a roster spot in 2014 was likely done in by Vancouver's quick postseason elimination in each of the past two seasons. I'm pretty sure Burrows would be at orientation camp, for example, if he'd scored an additional clutch playoff goal or two since his borderline miraculous tallies during Vancouver's run to the Cup Finals in 2011.

Still it's totally inaccurate to describe Alex Burrows' omission from the orientation camp roster as a "snub," especially when you consider Team Canada's absurd depth up front. 

Kevin Bieksa

I've always thought that Dan Hamhuis would have a better shot at making the 2014 team than Kevin Bieksa would, mostly because of Hamhuis' left handed shot. But I might also mention that Kevin Bieksa turned in a dud of a season in 2012-13. Don't tell Don Cherry.

Ultimately I'm a little bit surprised to see Bieksa left out of orientation camp, especially while righties like Travis Hamonic are invited. Hamonic is under-rated, but I don't think he's Bieksa good at this point in his career, frankly. I guess Yzerman was paying attention during the San Jose Sharks series...

John Tortorella

Here's the real snub. John Tortorella was an assistant coach of the American team during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. That team was often overmatched talent-wise but successfully relied on gritty defense and stellar goaltending on their way to forcing overtime against a superior Canadian squad in the gold medal game.

That American team forechecked aggressively - like one would expect a Ron Wilson squad to do - but their play away from the puck was textbook Tortorella hockey.

Tortorella, however, was passed over for head-coach of the American squad in late June (Dave Poile selected Dan Bylsma instead). He also won't be invited back as an assistant, losing his spot to Tony Granato (Bylsma's assistant in Pittsburgh) and Blue Jackets bench boss Todd Richards. Todd Richards, by the way, should probably send Sergei Bobrovsky a nice fruit basket.

I'd imagine Tortorella's exclusion from the American team's coaching ranks will sting for the proud coach. As Torts said during his introductory press conference in Vancouver, however, he's made his own bed. Tortorella's Q-Rating is in the toilet after his acrimonious interactions with, well, just about everybody in New York over the past few seasons. I'd imagine that played into this snub, frankly.

Which is probably all well and good for the Canucks. This snub could serve as both a motivator for Tortorella, and a tough love reminder that the way Tortorella treated people in New York comes at a cost. I'd imagine the Canucks will now get a more motivated and focussed Tortorella as a result, while the Americans leave an intelligent hockey mind at home in favour of Todd Richards. So yeah, sucks for Torts, but it's arguably all upside for Vancouver hockey fans.

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Thomas Drance lives in Toronto, eats spicy food and writes about hockey. He is an NHL News Editor at theScore, the ex-managing editor of CanucksArmy.com and an opinionated blowhard to boot. You can follow him on twitter @thomasdrance.
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#1 Adam
July 23 2013, 12:56PM
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The year Kesler won the selke, he was a top 10 player in the world. Crazy that he has dropped so much that guys such as Statsny or Pavelski could even be considered ahead of Kes.

I think Kesler is too good and too competetive to get knocked off by those players.

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#2 g_r_r
July 23 2013, 12:59PM
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My projected Team Canada line-up based on the camp rosters was:

Stamkos-Crosby-Staal Nash-Getzlaf-Perry Bergergon-Toews-Richards Couture-Tavares-Giroux Eberle

Letang-Weber Doughty-Pietrangelo Keith-Seabrook Subban

Luongo Price Smith

After reading this, specifically the part about veteran talent. I've been re-thinking things a bit. Before seeing the training camp roster, I had no doubt that Jarome Iginla should have aplace on this team. It's not very often that a player has a chance at 3 Olympic gold medals in a career (these days anyway). Jarome's stock seems to have fallen over the last year, and of course time is his worst enemy. But let's be clear: he's still an effective player.

This article has also made me reconsider Martin St Louis place on the team. He's also in a battle with father time, but you have to think his speed would be an asset on the larger ice surface, and his chemistry with Stamkos would be of a benefit as well.

Now, obviously a lot depends on how player's are fairing in the months leading up to December, but Team Canada could ice something that looks like this up front:

Stamkos-Crosby-St. Louis Nash-Getzlaf-Perry Bergergon-Toews-Richards Couture-Staal-Giroux Iginla

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#3 NM00
July 23 2013, 01:04PM
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Based on the other contenders, I suspect Lou is pretty much a lock to get one of the three jobs and likely has the inside track on #1 at the moment.

But I do think there is a legit argument that Lou should not be the starter despite his lengthy track record of elite save percentages.

And it's no different than the argument for Schneider taking over in the 2011 playoffs.

Aside from possibly Holtby, Lou probably has the best shot of the 5 Canadian goalies at putting up an elite save percentage.

But with MAF not invited, does Lou also have the best shot at a blow up game that could very well end the tournament?

This isn't about the "Lou is a choker!" narrative.

But there is, in my opinion, a perfectly logical reason to have Lou on the bench in favour of a lower risk/lower reward goalie.

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#4 Mantastic
July 23 2013, 02:27PM
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@g_r_r

i would never move bergeron away from center. Crosby, Toews and Bergeron will be the backbone of the forwards and they will be playing down the middle.

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#5 David Goodburn
July 23 2013, 04:01PM
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Hi Jeff,

Any thoughts on how Edler's IIHF suspension may impact his place on the team? I agree he is in the mix but the suspension may be enough to knock him below Brodin and the rest for a place on the team.

His suspension will only last for the round robin so that is in his favour but it could be a significant strike against him in a close competition.

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#6 David Goodburn
July 23 2013, 04:02PM
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@David Goodburn

Sorry just saw that is was Thomas Drance posting not Jeff. Sorry Thomas.

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#7 goldfiSh
July 23 2013, 05:03PM
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Kesler's a lock. Don't doubt it for a second.

Hamhuis is only a surprise at first glance. Guy deserves to be there and truly is one of the best DEFENCEmen in the game.

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#8 Lemming
July 23 2013, 06:00PM
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Do I have to remind people that Burrows was by far our best forward at the last world championships? I would've thought he'd at least get a consideration...

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#9 Lemming
July 23 2013, 06:14PM
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And by "last world championships" I mean "2012 world championships". And by "best" I meant "very good".

The point I was making is that Burrows should've at least gotten consideration, at least before that rat Marchand. I'd have a hard time cheering for Canada if Marchand was on the ice.

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#10 VBS6935
July 23 2013, 09:25PM
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I think Luongo would be crazy to go to the Olympics.

If Canada wins the gold, it will be in spite of him. If they loose, it will be because of him. And in silver/bronze games, Canada's record is not that great and again if they loose it will be his fault. Does a second gold medal mean anything to anyone?

It may not come to his choice of course as if he does report, and gets off to his usual slow start, he may not even make the team.

It will be interesting to see how his situation unfolds.

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#11 Mantastic
July 24 2013, 09:37AM
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@Lemming

Marchand is better at everything Burrows does well. Agitates better, scores more, skates better. Burrows isn't a better player than any of the 25 forwards invited into camp.

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#12 goldfiSh
July 24 2013, 10:54AM
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@Mantastic

Not sure where u get ur information from. Brad Marchand's career high is 28 goals & 57 pts. He's a 2 time 20+ goal scorer. Alex Burrows career high is 35 goals & 67 pts. He has 4 20+goal seasons.

Also for what it's worth, Burrows is ranked by SI as the 4th most hated player in hockey. Marchand comes in at #8.

The only thing Marchand has over Burrows is age, and why should that matter in a 2 week long tournament in February.

SNUB.

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#13 goldfiSh
July 24 2013, 11:02AM
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@VBS6935

Seriously? 6 months away and ur already writing the narrative, discrediting Lu's part in the win or else blaming the whole failure on him.

eh?!

Fans like u make goldfiSh sick.

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#14 Mantastic
July 24 2013, 11:28AM
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@goldfiSh

how much longer has Burrows been playing in the league? so how can you compare the amount of seasons of 20+ goals is relavent. Burrows plays with the Sedins, Marchand plays with Bergeron. can you remind me of who won art ross trophies when Burrows had career numbers?

Marchand has been the FAR SUPERIOR playoff scorer and Olympic hockey is playoff hockey. Marchand has also played in WJC for canada and has better international experience than Burrows.

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#15 goldfiSh
July 24 2013, 12:57PM
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@Mantastic

You make a convincing argument, except for one thing, it is not based on facts.

I don't have time to go through the numbers with you, but I can assure you that as far as being goal scorers, point producers, and big game players, they are essentially the same player. Their career averages are very similar, especially if you exclude their first seasons in the league before they were established NHL players.

Both Burrows & Marchand have the luxury of playing on stacked teams and with great linemates, (as compared to say a Jamie Benn) so I don't think that argument holds any water.

Neither player is far superior.

In FACT, they are almost mirror images of each other, as reflected in their contracts, $4.5m each. Obviously Marchand's agent used Burrows as a comparable when negotiating his contract, and Chiarelli agreed.

Check urself son.

SNUB.

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#16 Mantastic
July 24 2013, 02:02PM
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@goldfiSh

yeah i'm sure playing with art ross winners don't inflate numbers of average players... not like the Sedins have never done that before SON. Vancouver is not a stacked team SON

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#17 J21 (@Jyrki21)
July 24 2013, 02:48PM
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Yannick Weber for Switzerland, no?

When filling out these rosters, people tend to speak as though no one gets injured through the course of the NHL season. You'd have to think Hamhuis' chances are a lot better in reality once the season gets underway than simply looking at an all-healthy depth chart.

Also, I feel that if Edler were to switch jerseys with guys like Oduya, Ericsson or Hjalmarsson, then there'd be zero doubt about his place on the team, and plenty surrounding those guys. Hype is pretty selective.

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#18 Mantastic
July 24 2013, 02:57PM
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@J21 (@Jyrki21)

besides the fact that he's suspended for the entire round robin which isn't a walk in the park anymore and then throw him into a game in the knockout rounds

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#19 Lemming
July 24 2013, 05:37PM
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@Mantastic

The effect the Sedins have on Burrows can't be ignored, but it's been demonstrated here and on other sites that Burrows has a definite impact on the Sedins. Burrows makes the Sedins better, from great to better than great. Part of that is his ability to shoot, dig for loose pucks, get to open areas.

Another part of that is a part of Burrows' game that I think is extremely underrated, his play away from the puck. He has an excellent stick and great defensive awareness. Honestly, as much as I hate to say it, a line with Marchand and Burrows on it would make for a great Maltby/Draper type defensive but chip in offensively line. Honestly, it's not like a player has never gotten onto team Canada based on their defensive abilities.

The point is that Burrows also makes his linemates better, it's not just a one way street. He can play hockey and is smarter than he gets credit for. On top of that, he's great defensively. I rest my case.

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#20 Lemming
July 24 2013, 05:38PM
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Judge: "You rest your case?"

Oh, I'm sorry, I thought that was just a figure of speech.

Case closed.

(I hope someone gets the reference...)

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#21 goldfiSh
July 24 2013, 05:43PM
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@Mantastic

U lost this a long time ago, but i'll take the bait again. Last message, and i'll give u a quick history lesson...

The "Alex Burrows" Canucks won:

-Back to back presidents trophies -Western Conference Championship -2 Art Ross trophies -2 Separate MVP trophies -1 Selke trophy -1 Jennings trophy -Led the league in scoring -Led the league in GA -Led the league in PP -Led the league in PK -In 2010 had SIX 20 goal scorers -Set multiple franchise records

And the list goes on... So yes. The Canucks that Alex Burrows has played on the last 4-5 years have been stacked.

Brad Marchand also plays for a stacked team that has won 2 Eastern Championships and a Stanley Cup.

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#22 goldfiSh
July 24 2013, 05:49PM
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@Mantastic

Sorry I lied, that was not my last message, I wanted to tell you to get out of my kitchen.

That is all.

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#23 Lemming
July 24 2013, 08:04PM
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While I'm on a roll...

"Well, Mr. Nahasapemapedalon, it might surprise to you to..urg...ugh...know..uh...I wasn't wearing...urg...a tie at all!"

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#24 Mantastic
July 25 2013, 08:21AM
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@goldfiSh

Last year was stack? As I recall only two of the last 5 years did they win any of those awards and none named the Stanley Cup. That's the sound of you getting owned and seriously lol at setting franchise records

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#25 Lemming
July 25 2013, 08:37AM
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@Mantastic

Really? Just gonna glaze over what I said earlier and just keep trying to yell "but dey don't have a cuppzzzzz!!!"? Lots of great players have only managed to win a cup in the twilight of their career, having a cup isn't a measure of talent.

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#26 Mantastic
July 25 2013, 09:36AM
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@Lemming

and winning those other awards matter more? are you joking me? i've only said winning the cup once, not keep trying to yell "cup winz"

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#27 Mantastic
July 25 2013, 09:38AM
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@Lemming

a lot of players make players around them better. Burrows is not the top 25 canadian forward in doing so.

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#28 Lemming
July 25 2013, 05:53PM
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@Mantastic

Again, are you calling any number of very good to star players bad players because they never played on a cup winning team? Having played on a cup winning team isn't a measure of skill as much as it is luck.

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